Recently in Switzerland Category

Switzerland and the Olympics

Today is Switzerland's National Day.  The UK does not have a national day although we seem to be having a national year this year, 2012, with all the celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and holding the 30th Olympic Games.

So what do Switzerland and the UK have in common? According to Diccon Bewes' blog's Swiss fact of the week, only two countries have competed at every single one of the modern Summer and Winter Olympic Games: Great Britain and Switzerland.

At the time of writing, Team GB has won 4 medals - 2 bronze and 2 silver. Switzerland has yet to win one - but the whole spirit of the Games is not the winning, but the taking part.

And it is not only athletes taking part in the Olympic Games. My friend, Gabriel, commentated on the Opening Ceremony for the Latin American Spanish-speaking audience and he's also commentating on his beloved football too! What a fabulous assignment. Congratulations, Gabriel!

August 1: Switzerland's National Day

Last week, I mentioned that Diccon Bewes had been interviewed on Radio 4's Excess Baggage. Bewes is a Brit living in Switzerland so he is well placed to report on the idiosyncracies of the Swiss from a foreign point of view. By means of his blog, Swiss Watching, Mr Bewes can also be considered a translator and interpreter - and thus be included here. For although he does not earn his living by translating the written or spoken word, he interprets Swiss life and culture for those of us who do not live there and cannot get under the skin of the country. His full immersion experience allows him to report on aspects of life that are not always apparent to the average tourist. It will not come as any surprise that Switzerland is not all skiing, watches, holey cheese and Heidi; Bewes reports on politics, football, avoiding social gaffes and perhaps the most important difference between the British and Swiss cultures: how not to queue.

Bewes has written about Switzerland's National Day (which falls today) giving a good flavour of how the day is celebrated. For the British, a national day is something of a foreign concept. I have often found myself explaining to incredulous foreigners that we, unlike the Germans, Americans, French, etc., do not celebrate our nation in this way. There has been some discussion in Parliament about instituting such a day but, so far, little progress has been made.

I have fond memories of visiting friends in Basel on August 1st one year so here's wishing my Swiss clients, colleagues and friends a happy national day!

Discovering the Röstigraben

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Translators are always being exhorted to keep up to date with their languages, that is, developments in both their native language and their source languages.  This can be done in many different ways.

I made a few new little discoveries about Switzerland whilst listening to the radio on Saturday morning. Excess Baggage on BBC Radio 4 is a magazine-style programme presented by Sandi Toksvig covering various aspects of travelling outside the UK. In this week's edition, she was chatting to Diccon Bewes, a travel writer, about his experiences of living on this "landlocked island". 

In the interview, the pair discuss Swiss red tape, cuckoo clocks, holes in Swiss social life and the Röstigraben of which I confess I had never heard before. Bewes' definition of the Röstigraben  is borne out by my copy of the Duden "Wie sagt man in der Schweiz". This little extra snippet of information may be useful for a future translation!

If you would like to discover what the Röstigraben is, you can listen to the 13-minute interview on the BBC's iPlayer  (It is the first item on the programme.) According to the BBC website it is available until Thursday 1 Jan 2099. I think this could be a misprint - programmes are usually available for 7-14 days after their first broadcast.